The 74th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations opened Tuesday, 24 September, amidst rising tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf. Two dates preceded the inauguration of this session that would have an impact on future developments in these two regions. On 14 September, Saudi oil installations came under direct attack in a brazen escalation of an already tense security situation in the Gulf. On 17 September, Israel held its second general election in less than six months — a first in the history of the Hebrew state — that saw the Blue and White Party garnering 34 seats while the Likud gained 32. It was political gridlock at a time when the world is awaiting the announcement by the White House of its “Deal of the Century” to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Compared to last year, the two regions were still mired in conflicts without any political solution on the horizon. This year and one day before the start of the 74th Session, the UN secretary general announced the good and encouraging news that the Syrian government and other Syrian stakeholders in Syria had finally agreed on the establishment of the Constitutional Commission that would be tasked with supervising the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 of December 2015. In this respect, the foreign ministers of the Small Group on Syria (Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States) met 26 September and welcomed the establishment of the said commission. They reaffirmed that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria — only a political one. They expressed their support for the efforts of the secretary general s special envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, to implement UNSC Resolution 2254. Otherwise, things have remained the same, save in Libya where a dangerous military stalemate has persisted since April. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, France and Germany (the E3) released a statement in New York in which the three powers blamed Iran for the attacks of 14 September in Saudi Arabia. The United States already singled out Iran. It vowed to continue its strategy of maximum pressure against Tehran till the day Iran ceases what the US administration has called “its destabilising behaviour” that threatens the Middle East, as well as freedom of navigation in the Gulf and global energy supplies. The US administration even turned down a peace proposal by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani before the General Assembly convened. These positions vis-à-vis Iran went hand-in-hand with the deployment of more American forces to the Gulf and the deployment of additional American-made Patriot anti-missile systems to provide deterrence against Iran and defend Saudi Arabia against further attacks. In this regard, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on the sidelines of the 74th Session with leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and highlighted the importance of regional coordination to confront challenges in the region, including Iran. In parallel, the ongoing war in Yemen was one of the questions that galvanised the attention of the world body. After four years of destruction and mayhem that have caused one of the worst humanitarian disasters after World War II, United Nations efforts have yet to bear fruit. Yemen has become a quagmire for all sides in the war. No one side has the military capacity to impose its will on the battlefield. The key to the peaceful resolution of the conflict lies probably outside Yemen itself. If the Americans, the Saudis and the Iranians could agree, at least, in principle, as a first step, on a modus vivendi in the Gulf and in Arabia, the chances are that this war could come to an end. However, the political will to reach this understanding has not materialised yet. The Yemen donors met in New York to review the level of funding necessary to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. The situation in Libya, which has worsened since the 73rd General Assembly, was the subject of intense discussions and figured prominently in the remarks of some heads of state who delivered remarks before the General Assembly. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, for instance, reaffirmed Egypt s support for the efforts of Ghassan Salame, the UN special envoy to Libya, and criticised regional intervention in Libya. He said that the Security Council had approved in a special meeting in September 2017 a plan for a political solution in Libya. He stressed that Egypt had adhered to this plan while insisting on the need to fight terrorism and terrorist groups within Libya. The US administration has insisted that all actors in the Libyan conflict should respect the arms embargo in Libya and warned that terrorism, sooner or later, will end up being exported beyond Libyan borders. It has renewed its call for a ceasefire, stressing that the only way forward is the implementation of the UN plan for the reunification of Libyan state institutions. American officials welcomed the meeting that Germany will host in a very short time in an attempt to push Libyan leaders to sincerely implement the UN plan for Libya. Needless to say, Arab countries, including Egypt, have stressed the importance of reaching peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, emphasising that peace between the two sides would unlock opportunities for regional cooperation across the Middle East. The Egyptian president was more emphatic in this regard when he made a clear and an unambiguous linkage between the establishment of an independent Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the creation of what he termed as a “security and an economic system” in the Middle East. It is interesting to note, in this context, that this is the first time that Egypt has made such a linkage. On the other hand, and as far as Egypt is concerned, the 74th General Assembly saw the Egyptian president bring up differences between Ethiopia and Egypt concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. He stressed — and emphatically at that — that Nile waters for Egypt are a question of “survival” and a matter of right. The internationalisation of the Egyptian-Ethiopian water crisis has added another sensitive question before the UN General Assembly, in addition to the host of complex conflicts above. How Middle Eastern allies of Egypt will deal with it is another question. It is difficult to predict how the Middle East will look one year from now when the next ordinary session of the UN General Assembly convenes. Judging from the meetings that took place in New York in the last two weeks and the positions expressed, we should entertain a guarded optimism that, maybe, the political will necessary among great and regional powers to carry out UN resolutions pertaining to regional conflicts will grow stronger and irreversible, so that peace and security becomes the norm across the region.
As I have previously stated, the announcement of the Yellow Kingdom took advantage of the dispute between Egypt and Sudan, because each country has its own maps of its borders with the other. The area of Bir Tawil is located outside the maps adopted by each country because of a dispute over the sovereignty of the straight line 22 degrees north of the equator that Egypt claims and the winding administrative line that Sudan considers to mark its sovereignty. The dispute between the two countries is therefore the root of this situation. We do not know the situation s exact origins or motives, or who stands behind it. We do not know the limits of its development. What can be said is that if the dispute between the two countries is the reason for the rise of this issue, the solution could be to amend the causes of that dispute. What can stop the situation s potential development into a crisis is the two countries collaboration to prevent this from happening. This requires that the two countries find a way to stop exploiting such loopholes resulting from the persistence of the Halayeb problem. Egypt claims it possesses documents and historical references proving that Halayib belongs to Egypt, and Sudan has the same conviction. The dispute has turned into a cause of national dignity, prompting internal and foreign parties to defend their positions on the disagreements between the two countries. I see what happened as an incentive for us to tackle outstanding issues and end the causes of disagreement. The issue of the Kingdom of Yellow the Mountain is a warning that these outstanding issues should be addressed. Both Egypt and Sudan face threats. Any harm to either country will have an impact on the other. All of this is taking place in a risky region on both sides. The situation in Sudan has changed following the December Revolution and the overthrow of the Islamic Front regime, which had heavily damaged relations with Egypt and greatly offended Sudan and its people. I think that the most important challenge now is to adopt a new approach in managing relations between the two countries. I do not know if I am being too imaginative when I suggest that the officials of the two countries sit together to put an end to the Halayeb crisis and design a new starting point for relations and strategy between the two countries. For decades, we have lived with slow, reluctant and partial responses. We now have an opportunity to move into an era of action and initiative, and to manage our affairs rather than simply spurring reactions. Solving the problems between Egypt and Sudan should begin with Halayeb and Shalatin, which are a tension point taken advantage of by anyone who wants to spoil the relations between the two countries. If this happens, we will have to thank those who raised the issue of the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, discrimination by colour, religion and race is still rampant in the world today and more so for obvious reasons in countries inhabited by multiple ethnicities. It is also anticipated that xenophobia and racial discrimination will continue to rise in the coming years. At the same time, millions of people still head to the United States in the hope of realising the American Dream of a decent life, abundant opportunities and equal treatment. But upon their arrival, that American Dream may become an “American pipe dream” for many as racism and discrimination sour their highly anticipated new life. The idea of the American Dream involves the ideals of democracy, human rights, liberty, opportunity and equality in which freedom includes the opportunity to pursue prosperity and success. But do all Americans get the same opportunities and treatment that allow them to fulfill that dream? Though immigrants to the US used to suffer the backlash of racism at the hands of some, the majority of US citizens maintained a welcoming attitude towards their fellow Americans and those who had recently set foot on American soil. Today, as harsh speech becomes more prevalent, courtesy and empathy towards others has often gone out of the window. Hence, by virtue of their birth or colour, some are intentionally undermining fellow US citizens through denigrating language and offensive behaviour. In an episode considered the first of its kind, US President Donald Trump recently called on four women members of the US Congress of non-white origin to “go back and try to fix the crime-infested, corrupt places [they] originally came from before telling the US government how to handle its problems.” Three of these four Congresswomen were born in the US. Prior to this episode, Trump had also referred to an “invasion” of the US coming from its southern border and condemned Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and Syrian refugees as “snakes.” The US House of Representatives immediately condemned Trump s comments, but the damage was done, leaving the door wide open for his white supremacist followers to verbally assault non-white immigrants in an unabashed manner. Today, white supremacy and the notions and behaviour that come with it have even reached the US mainstream. In an incident that has been described as one of the most racist moments in recent American history, the crowds that had gathered to hear Trump speak at one of his rallies chanted “send her back, send her back, send her back” about Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota who wears the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, and who soon afterwards saw an increase in threats to her life. It was as though the crowd had been given free rein or carte blanche to say what it pleased. A Sudanese writer commented on the phrase “send her back” in the US newspaper USA Today, saying that it had reminded her of what she had gone through when she had arrived in the US as a six-year-old. She said that her family had travelled from Sudan to California “in pursuit of the American Dream,” but still she did not feel welcome. She also said that “being a black, Muslim woman with roots in East Africa, I quickly learned that the American Dream was a myth, only reserved for a special class of people, one who did not look anything like me.” Incidents against non-white Americans have now become more pervasive. One piece of footage on the Internet has a white man screaming at a black woman, “if you consider yourself an African-American, go back to Africa.” She screams back at him, “you brought us over!” Another woman shouts back, “you go back to Europe!” Other footage shows a white man in the US yell at a Jew, “go to Auschwitz,” the Nazi camp where many Jews were imprisoned and exterminated during the Second World War. On social media in the US, photographs of white supremacists vowing to “make America white again” are going viral. Such verbal examples are numerous and frequent. But when bigotry and intolerance become the threshold for physical carnage, it is undoubtedly a disaster at another level altogether. The attack on a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, that killed 20 innocent shoppers and injured dozens of others and the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine people were both ethnically motivated. In a statement released soon after these attacks that took place earlier this year, a group of UN experts denounced the incidents and encouraged the United States “to address such violence without delay as a matter of white supremacy and racism,” adding that any refusal to take “immediate and direct action to prevent further similar acts of domestic terrorism renders those individuals complicit in the violence that follows.” Non-white sentiments towards these events are summed up in the following poignant tweet, which has been abbreviated for brevity: “Was the killer Muslim? Then we ban travel. Was the killer Hispanic? Then we build a wall. Was the killer black? Then we build more prisons and a stronger police force. Was the killer White? Thoughts and prayers and more guns in hope to stop the bad guys with guns.” Though exaggerated, this tweet speaks to the sentiments of many in the US. The fact that Muslim woman Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Puerto Rican descent succeeded in becoming US Congresswomen is a phenomenal success, and it denotes how it is still possible to achieve the American Dream. But the fact that they are still met with so much animosity is also an affirmation that racism still persists in the US today and that it will possibly get worse in the near future. The land that promises the American Dream should provide a sociocultural climate that embraces all ethnicities, shuns xenophobia and acts as a safe haven for immigrants that take the security and opportunities of the US as a given.
The decision to refer a number of presidential and construction company employees to trial is an example of the decisions taken by the political leadership to fight corruption wherever and whoever is responsible. The decision is part of a systematic and comprehensive process to eradicate corruption. For the past four decades corruption has been digging its roots so deeply in this society to become the mainstream and a major challenge because those involved have created endless circles of protection and a ceiling that one would hardly be able to penetrate. This mafia created a pillar of power of its own that stands still and challenges the government. When President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi took over, corruption was hindering the process of production and development. A well-designed strong and systematic strata of corrupted fellows pervaded, along with detached administrative and legal advisors that help them evade the law. As ordinary people felt helpless, bribery and cronyism became part and parcel of our day-to-day life. Circumventing legal procedures and rules spread like social spyware, hardly raising an eyebrow. People felt that fighting corruption is not only "mission impossible," but suicidal because of the protective power attached to the corrupted. Those gangs created the image that whoever dares to stand against them will be the loser. Therefore, more and more people either kept their distance from such gangs, or found their way to join the party of the corrupt, by offering services, looking for a tiny slice of the large cake. The question here is whether to take a share of a decaying edifice that is everyone s heritage, or work hard to reconstruct this ailing house and protect it from decadence. Fighting corruption was not an easy task since it had become the mainstream. Recognising the challenge, a well-planned system was put in place by the political leadership. The first phase of this plan targeted minimising the scale of corruption and opening the door to those willing to return to fair rules and make amends by adjusting their status, especially those who laid their hands on the state s properties. The government showed its willingness that whoever is ready to adjust but cannot return the property should pay for it. The purpose here was to help those who had not yet become an integral part of the corrupted mafia. The target was reforming the behaviour of those who were tempted to make mistakes at a time when it was easy and possible. Reconciliation in such cases is difficult, but beneficial. It is easier to punish than change negative behaviour into a positive attitude that entails good citizenship. Hundreds of cases were closed when trespassers on the state s properties all over the country made amends and paid the price for the land illegally acquired; thus the gang of the corrupt lost a wide base of people who sided with the government in its long and hard attempt to fight corruption. Many tend to believe that corruption is limited to bribery, embezzlement or seizure of public monies. But such crimes are like the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, corruption has many complicated facets that developed technologically over the years, and thus became more and more difficult to investigate. Money laundering, tax and customs evasion, and electronic crimes have become more sophisticated processes one could hardly trace. Therefore, the National Academy to Fight Corruption was established two years ago. The main purpose of this academy is to train cadres capable of tracing such crimes, tightening their grip on the culprits and then referring them to trial. Fighting corruption is not an easy task and should depend on a well-developed administrative system that has also been part of the government plan over the past few years. A modern administrative system, difficult for hackers, designed with precision and efficiency to be more difficult for the corrupt to manipulate. President El-Sisi has always stressed the need to fight corruption as one of his main goals. He said that he will fight the corrupt wherever they are, and such an attitude gave a boost to government regulators who have been working round the clock investigating and probing government officials as well as members the corrupt mafia to uproot them throughout the country.
Over the past few weeks, the Arab world has witnessed several transformations within its domestic politics. Various states within the Arab world are subject to a new set of challenges that match the new regional political context. Quick analysis of the situation reveals political tensions in Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan. New political disturbances require a transformation in the role of each state. The legacy of 2011 regarding political unrest is being changed significantly. There is a very close connection between the political context and the activities of collective action. The public does not mobilise itself due to a single mobilisation initiative or a random call for taking to the street (in political sociology terms). At this juncture we have to notice that the rules and rather dynamics of collective action have changed a lot since 2011. Protracted conflicts like Syria, for example, are based more on the course of the confrontation in military action than collective mobilisation. The longevity of the conflict and the intervention of multiple international and regional powers have changed the rules of collective action in zones of conflict in the Arab world, including Syria. Since the change in dynamics, Syria has been following a pattern other than the one it witnessed in 2011. The year 2011 witnessed an ascent of collective action. However, the ongoing conflict made the regular pattern of collective action more dependent on the use of force, meaning that political formations are not necessarily effective like they used to be. Libya, on the other hand, witnesses a completely different pattern of conflict. A separation, both political and geographical, between the East and the West has been taking place in Libya since 2014. The Libyan south remains an unanswerable question, but the international community is still primarily concerned with the East-West struggle and its implications. There is definitely lots of criticism on the role of the UN in the Libyan interior. Several promises have been made and timed without actual fulfilment. Tensions in North Africa made the Neighbouring Countries mechanism less effective within the Libyan file. The roles of Russia, the United States and EU are expected to increase and escalate within the Libyan conflict in light of a turning away from regional powers and alliances. Egypt is indeed a major and an integral counterpart within that scene. In comparison to other cases in the Arab Spring, Egypt is rather stable and is quite rid of the political contentions it witnessed since 2011. The pattern of collective action in Egypt underwent significant changes. There was in 2004 till 2011 an ascending order that witnessed various movements that rest on collective action who were trying to exist within the public sphere, starting with the National Campaign to support the Palestinian Intifada, all the way to the “We are all Khaled Said” movement. Collective action and the formation of non-institutional movements are no operating in the same manner. Tunisia is a unique model within the socio-political changes in the Arab world. Unlike many other places in the Arab world, Tunisia has a politically influential civil society that is a counterpart with the state in Tunisian politics. The recent elections following the death of President Essebsi saw unconventional candidates win who will go through another electoral round. Expelling the Islamist stream from the picture demonstrates the strength of Tunisian civil society and its influence on shaping public opinion. While Tunisia witnessed an ascending order in collective action before 2011, the last elections prove that a change within the pattern has taken place. This means that political parties and civil society in Tunisia have instilled themselves as actors in an institutional political process, which reduces the random influence of the street on decision making in favour of the state s mechanisms. Both Algeria and Sudan are still in interim phases that do not necessarily promise timed or concrete results. Collective action in the two countries, or contentious politics in other terms, are at a peak. Transitional entities are being formed in both scenes equally, but without much of a long-term vision. Both states are an integral part in a regional equation of national security and a matrix of international interests in Africa. The outcome of the transformations they are witnessing will certainly have implications on the Arab world as a whole, specifically concerning security. An overall analysis of this scene proves that there is a state of transformation within collective action and political tension within the Arab world. One of those transformations is the change in patterns of collective action, which suddenly became easier to realise in comparison to 2011. The role of social media was for sure one of the influential tools in this regard. There is also an important shift in the acting political and social forces in the Arab world. It is true that every case has its own context, but there is also a similar pattern being repeated all over the zones of conflict or political tension in the Arab world. The Arab world is seeing various challenges and several transformations. The mode of collective action is one of the main changes within a rapidly evolving political scene. In the end, it comes down to the quality of cohesion within each polity. Zones of conflict will have to negotiate future courses of action with new alliances of regional and international powers. Meanwhile, the Arab world will have to revise its relations with different actors in Europe according to the wave of political change taking place there as well. With all these givens taken into account, it is likely we will witness a change in regional and international politics in the Middle East and North Africa over the coming year.
In 1939, the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace. According to historians, Erik Brandt, a member in the Swedish parliament, wanted to mock the world s failure to confront Nazism. Thus, the MP sent a letter to the Nobel Committee nominating Hitler. What s more ironic was that the committee accepted the nomination. However, the MP withdrew his nomination after confirming it was a mockery. Hitler s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize shouldn t be considered a mere joke. As for the committee, it formally accepted the nomination and accredited the praise included in the MP s letter that Hitler was a "man of peace and a savior of humanity." Hitler s nomination and the withdrawal of the nomination increased the Nazi leader s mystery and contradictions. Hitler suffered from chronic swelling of the abdomen and used to take 28 different medicines to treat it. He also suffered from a bloated sense of self and megalomania. This leader who was vegetarian for many years of his life and issued a law prohibiting animal abuse, attacked countries and peoples, races and religions, causing the death of millions. The man suffered from ailurophobia (irrational fear of cats), yet he didn t dread the number of his victims. The leader who was the first to launch a campaign against smoking in modern history, used far greater weapons both on the battlefield and in concentration camps. In 2007, a distinguished play was staged in London titled "Dr Freud Will See You Now, Mrs Hitler," by two British playwrights, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. The play belongs to the alternate history genre, which is a new literary genre where historical stories are rewritten based on the question “What if?" The play goes on in imagining the alternative path this historical period might have taken if matters took a different course. As a boy, Adolf Hitler suffered from a psychological crisis due to the violent behaviour his customs officer father displayed towards him, and for other family reasons. When the child entered the stage of psychological disturbance, the district doctor suggested that his mother, Klara, should take him to a psychiatric clinic for children opened recently by the well-renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in Vienna. The father refused and the boy Adolf Hitler didn t go to Dr Freud for treatment. The story of Hitler s psychological illness as a boy and the suggestion of going to Dr Freud s clinic is a historical fact. The play starts from this factual point and then diverges to an alternate history where the boy went with his mother to the clinic. The play revolves around whether Dr Freud would be capable of saving this young patient, and humanity with him. The play led many to reread Hitler from a psychological perspective and apply this approach on other leaders generally, and raised the question of what would be the state of mankind if several leaders across history were psychologically treated. One of history s ironies is that Adolf Hitler met Freud in Vienna s cafés before World War I. Hitler was 24 at the time, miserable and looking for work. Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky were fugitive revolutionaries hiding away from Tsarist Russia in Vienna while the Yugoslav leader Josip Tito also used to work at the time in the Daimler car manufacturing factory there. All of them used to frequent the same cafés in central Vienna, according to Charles Emerson s book “1913: In Search of the World before the Great War.” He narrates the coincidences that led Hitler and Stalin to be in the same café, as well as Hitler and Freud, without the latter having a chance to treat the young Hitler and save the world. Thus, Hitler escaped Dr Freud twice, and humanity lost an opportunity for security and peace. The ironies were extended to the Nobel Peace Prize from Hitler to Mussolini and Stalin, where the trio were nominated for the prize, while the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi didn t receive the prize albeit being nominated five times. Afterwards the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres; a trio — according to several historians — that were war criminals. Many signed calls to strip Henry Kissinger and Shimon Peres of the prize, but to no avail. The prestigious prize became banal when it was given to ordinary or substandard people. In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and few months later the Soviet Union no longer existed. In 2009, US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and after a short time peace began to collapse all over the Islamic and Arab worlds. I ve pointed out previously, in an article titled "A Girl Playing with the Nobel Prize" within my book Grand Egypt, the shock of the Yemeni Tawakkol Karman s winning the Nobel Peace Prize. One Norwegian newspaper wrote angrily: “The Nobel Peace Prize Committee ought to recruit members from professional and international backgrounds, rather than retired members of parliament.” Tawakkol Karman, who couldn t develop a vision for her family or her village, was chosen as a member in the “UN committee for drawing a vision for the world.” Karman, who didn t write an article, research paper or give a lecture, was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine to be among the 100 Top Global Thinkers. If an intellectually humble person such as Tawakkol Karman was the best intellectual among the top 100 intellectuals worldwide, then what about the intellectual level of the other 99? Tawakkol Karman responded to my book and said: “Moslemany is standing in the wrong side of history." The fact is that the Nobel Prize is standing in the wrong side of history, and as for some of its laureates, their fame will wither one day as they return to their natural positions outside history.
When President Donald Trump admitted this weekend that in a July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he did, in fact, raise "corruption" accusations against his 2020 political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden -- he effectively turned up the volume on calls for his own impeachment. "We don t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine," Trump told reporters in describing the call. (There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.) And Monday, sources told CNN that White House officials are considering releasing a transcript of Trump s call with Zelensky. Now House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, normally reticent about impeachment, says that if a whistleblower complaint that was revealed last week shows Trump tying military aid to Ukraine to Ukraine probing the Bidens, "we may very well have crossed the Rubicon" on impeachment. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke of "a grave new chapter in lawlessness." Trump s administration has already intervened to keep secret the whistleblower complaint that appears to be related to Ukraine -- thereby blocking the normal process that would inform Congress of the controversy. And in doing so, he has aligned himself more closely with the tragic example of Richard Nixon, who resigned as Congress accused him of high crimes and misdemeanors. Trump made his regard for Nixon plain to me when, during a 2014 stroll around his office, he paused to pick up a framed letter. The note, signed in blue by the disgraced former President, urged Trump to go into politics. Trump told me he admired Nixon because he was such a good judge of talent. In my time with Trump, as I gathered research for a biography of him, he criticized Obama, both Presidents Bush, as well as Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, but he never said a bad word about Tricky Dick who, it must be said, spent a troubling amount of time on the dark side of politics. Nixon s "dirty tricksters," among them longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone -- who faces trial in November on charges of lying to Congress and obstructing justice -- worked with a level of creative malevolence that a manipulator like Trump would surely admire. But it was Nixon s hubris, combined with his lies, that proved his undoing. In Trump we hear echoes. Our current President s lies and misstatements are legion. The current Washington Post count exceeds 12,000. His hubris was on display during the 2016 campaign when he said he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone" and not lose any votes. In office Trump has lived by the same heedless attitude, axing aides -- often for insufficient loyalty -- at a furious rate and turning the federal government into a Trump Tower on the Potomac, where one man rules by his gut instinct. Of course, the chaos and subsequent ineptitude of the Trump regime separates him from Nixon, whose team was generally effective in administering the government. Nixon s creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and his opening of relations with China, for example, were accomplished because he had deep experience in government. But one of the impeachment articles that brought down Richard Nixon -- perhaps the most important one -- cited his refusal to release tapes of conversations that he had secretly recorded in the Oval Office. First revealed by White House aide Alexander Butterfield, the tapes proved Nixon s involvement in the Watergate cover-up and made it impossible for him to deny the truth. Here the comparison with Trump becomes, for the moment, a question mark, since we don t know exactly how the discussion of the Bidens was framed in the phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And now the President seems to be saying he wants to release a transcript of the call. At first glance this openness suggests a real break from the Nixon stonewalling model, but a glance through recent history suggests Trump may just be more adept than Nixon when it comes to doublespeak. In his comments Sunday about the transcript, Trump said, "We ll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said." A casual listener would hear in Trump s words a desire to make the call transcript public. But that s not what he said. In fact, he noted any release would be "saying what we said," which leaves lots of room for editing. Trump also added that releasing the contents of the call would pose challenges to foreign leaders and that intelligence officials may block him from coming clean. Sunday, both his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and his Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, were dispatched to the morning talk shows to caution against the release: "I think it would be highly inappropriate to release a transcript of a call between two world leaders," said Mnuchin. We have heard this sort of thing before. Trump said he wanted to release his tax returns, as every president has for decades, but that his lawyers wouldn t let him. The same thing happened during the Mueller investigation, when Trump repeatedly said he wanted to sit for the special counsel s questions, but then he followed a strategy that prevented the meeting from ever happening. Take all the evidence into account and it s easy to see that, like Nixon, Trump s ignoble impulses -- his obfuscation, his self-dealing -- represent a threat to the country and to his own presidency. The difference is a matter of style. Trump is Nixon, but with far more chutzpah and far less respect for the nation s institutions. He represents a dangerous variation on a tragic type.
Donald Trump has every reason to be concerned about taking on former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, especially given that a Fox News poll released this week found him trailing Biden by a whopping 14 points if the election were held now. But Trump s greatest threat may in fact come from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who leads Trump by six points in the poll. Per a CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll released Saturday, Warren has for the first time taken the lead among likely caucusgoers in that key first primary state, climbing seven points since June. And Warren appears poised to rise further if other Democrats drop out or falter in the race, given that the poll finds she s the top second choice among all other Democratic candidates. Twenty percent would choose Warren as a second choice while Biden and Bernie Sanders are each only the second choice of 10%. Biden still currently leads Warren in the Real Clear Politics average of polls on a national level by a little over ten points. But Warren has been slowly building support in a way that may not only lead her to win the nomination, but to win the White House come 2020. Why? It s simple: Warren is increasingly exciting people about her candidacy. This is backed by a new NBC/WSJ poll released Sunday which finds that among all the 2020 Democratic candidates, she is now the top-tier candidate who the largest amount of registered voters (17%) are "enthusiastic" about. While that number has grown from just 8 percent in March, the percentage of voters who are enthusiastic about Trump has remained the same at 26%. Biden, however, has seen the opposite trend. In March, 17% of voters were enthusiastic about him, but now the former VP has slipped to 12%. That s not good. Enthusiasm should only be growing the more people see a candidate in debates and on the campaign trail. True, enthusiasm is an intangible factor that can come and go, often quickly. But it s enthusiasm that inspires people to not just vote, but to get friends to vote. It s that passion that animates people to knock on doors for a candidate, make phone calls, give money and attend events. In fact, just this past week, we saw an example of Warren enthusiasm on display when she held a rally in New York City and some 20,000 people reportedly attended. The massive crowd clearly unnerved Trump, who loves to brag that he draws the largest audiences. When asked about the rally by reporters, Trump did his best to downplay it, saying, "No. 1, she didn t have 20,000 people and No. 2, I think anybody would get a good crowd there." Biden still currently leads Warren in the Real Clear Politics average of polls on a national level by a little over ten points. But Warren has been slowly building support in a way that may not only lead her to win the nomination, but to win the White House come 2020. Why? It s simple: Warren is increasingly exciting people about her candidacy. This is backed by a new NBC/WSJ poll released Sunday which finds that among all the 2020 Democratic candidates, she is now the top-tier candidate who the largest amount of registered voters (17%) are "enthusiastic" about. While that number has grown from just 8 percent in March, the percentage of voters who are enthusiastic about Trump has remained the same at 26%. Biden, however, has seen the opposite trend. In March, 17% of voters were enthusiastic about him, but now the former VP has slipped to 12%. That s not good. Enthusiasm should only be growing the more people see a candidate in debates and on the campaign trail. True, enthusiasm is an intangible factor that can come and go, often quickly. But it s enthusiasm that inspires people to not just vote, but to get friends to vote. It s that passion that animates people to knock on doors for a candidate, make phone calls, give money and attend events. In fact, just this past week, we saw an example of Warren enthusiasm on display when she held a rally in New York City and some 20,000 people reportedly attended. The massive crowd clearly unnerved Trump, who loves to brag that he draws the largest audiences. When asked about the rally by reporters, Trump did his best to downplay it, saying, "No. 1, she didn t have 20,000 people and No. 2, I think anybody would get a good crowd there." In contrast, Biden s first response to reporters on the issue was understandably more defensive: "Not one single credible outlet has given credibility to these assertions. Not one single one," adding, "So I have no comment other than the president should start to be president." Later that night Biden put out a more forceful statement saying if the allegations are true, it is "clear-cut corruption." However, as someone who speaks to the progressives nightly on my SiriusXM radio show, I can tell you firsthand that Warren s words and sentiment line up perfectly with the frustration many rank and file Democrats have with the Democrats in Congress on this issue. Between now and the 2020 election a great deal can change. But if Warren and Biden continue along their current trajectory, Trump should fear Warren as much, if not more, than Biden.
Egypt s social media activists have become so prominent over the past decade or so that some consider them to be alternative or new-wave politicians within a political set of circumstances that has even led other more traditional politicians to create social media accounts to be closer to them and their followers. Some of these activists have garnered massive amounts of popularity and followings that cannot be easily ignored. Regardless of their political affiliations and tendencies, many have managed to set up their own cult followings, with this being as far as things have gone in the case of Egypt for better or for worse. Such political activism became rampant following the 25 January Revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. Social media activists then became aware of their own importance, and they turned into chief sources of news for many international news agencies in Egypt, which surprisingly dropped all sorts of journalistic traditions and published what they read or received on social media instead, often without proper verification or due diligence. In other words, whatever was written as a post on the Twitter or Facebook account of an activist could somehow become a verified truth that found its way to major global publications within an hour or so. That behaviour was responsible for destroying the long-standing credibility of major publications such as the US newspapers the New York Times and the Washington Post in Egypt, and other publications often followed suit. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership was well aware of the influence of such activists, and it managed to either install or lure a number of them to serve its purposes. They helped to spread the group s propaganda and false news after January 2011, needed to win over readers and present the Brotherhood as a viable political solution to the country s problems. These activists then efficiently helped catapult the Brotherhood to power in the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections. But lies cannot last forever, and sooner rather than later the majority of Egyptians found out the pervasive lies that the Brotherhood had used these activists to spread. They then shunned both, leading to the 30 June Revolution. Shocked by the aftermath of the revolution, the same activists who had earlier preached democracy and freedom against the clutches of “dictatorship” decided to continue on their path, ignoring the facts on the ground and not realising that they had been a tool in the hands of the Islamists. Their freedom calls were exposed as a façade to bring Islamist rule to the country, even if this meant going against the national interests and attacking the national armed forces. A dilemma was broached that Egyptian citizens have been living through ever since, and it is one that has continued even after the 30 June Revolution ousted the Islamist tyrant Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood rule. The activists who had preached freedom and democracy after 2011 could not cope with the reality of politics, and so they became self-centred and self-righteous while the rest of the nation was in their view wrong. Some chose to stay in the country and become tools of negativity and rumour, or they left the country and became the same such tools from abroad, only this time with even more vicious attitudes. Some of them went on to post videos online filled with fabrications about alleged abuses, while others used their accounts to distract readers from any tangible development in the country. Others still went straight ahead in tying their fate to the Brotherhood terrorist group by moving to Turkey and Qatar and there continuing their activities. Only a few of these 25 January activists took the time to realise that they were actually going against the best interests of their nation. The majority became an angry mob on social media. Hardly any of them grasped the basics of democracy and freedom, which entail listening to others opinions and their countering views. The irony also was that they were adopting the ideals of a group that believes in following a single ruler, or “caliph,” as part of its so-called “caliphate”. Accordingly, there was little difference between the “liberal” or “leftist” activists and those who were Muslim Brotherhood members, because all of them were parroting the same lies and spreading similar confusion among the public. Many of the current followers of these pseudo-freedom fighters are still appealing to some of the younger generation of social media users who were too young to witness the incidents of the 25 January Revolution and the chaos that followed it firsthand. The social media activists soon became a social sub-group that spread rumours and negativity and even used the vilest language against their detractors or any voices opposing their ideas. Ironically, they became the very “dictators” that they claimed to loath and said that they had fought against all their lives. Recently, some of these activists have been displaying signs of mental instability or substance abuse in the videos they have been posting on YouTube. While they still maintain some following, they have largely become a source of ridicule even to their once-loyal fans, who especially when they enter into feuds against one another accuse each other of betraying their so-called “cause”. These social media or keyboard warriors may still have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, in some cases, following their twisted posts. However, that has never encouraged them to adopt the sense of responsibility that an activist should have when addressing the wider population. Instead, the opposite has happened, and the massive numbers of followers they have got has put the false idea in their heads that they are the righteous ones and anyone opposing them is entirely wrong. Instead of becoming the next generation of politicians in Egypt that can secure a true democratic life for the country in the future, these social media activists have opted to be nuisances by adopting childish behaviour at times of great stress and challenge. While there is no denying that some of these activists once had good intentions, when the time came they chose their false popularity and personal glory above anything else. They ignored the fact that almost all of them are only as good as the time during which their social media accounts exist, and without them they will be forgotten in a matter of days since they have provided no real or lasting contributions to the country. Freedom through fascism against others has become the hidden motto of a large number of social media activists in Egypt. Despite the fact that the country s conditions are far from perfect, with an uphill battle still going on towards solving its economic and social challenges, it would be a grave mistake not to acknowledge that there has been massive development in all facets of life over recent years, even as it may take years and possibly decades for the country to reach its full potential. However, denying any progress and intentionally belittling any development that is taking place regardless of how large it is, remains a sign of a lack of responsibility and of belonging to the very country whose best interests these activists claim to have most at heart.
Before a single vote is cast in Israel s second national election this year, two disturbing facts are clear: the outcome will be as muddled as it was after the April contest, and whoever wins, despite the permanent state of denial in which Western liberals find themselves, Israel/Palestine has become one state — an Apartheid state. Following April s election, unable to form a governing coalition of 61 Knesset members, Netanyahu called for a new election, hoping to improve his prospects. During the past five months, he pulled out all the stops. He bombed three countries: Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He announced that if he wins this new contest, he will annex the Jordan Valley in addition to settlements and outposts spread throughout the West Bank. He accelerated his incitement against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, including a statement that “the Arabs are trying to steal the election” and an incendiary Facebook post claiming that “The Arabs want to annihilate us all — women, children and men.” While Netanyahu denied personal responsibility for the post, most commentators dismissed the denial. And he coerced members of his own party to pledge support for his immunity from prosecution on the multiple corruption charges he is currently facing. Even with all of this, polls are showing that Netanyahu and his coalition partners will fare no better than they did in April. In fact, it appears that neither Netanyahu s coalition nor the main opposition to his continued rule have moved beyond the numbers they had in April. The only significant growth appears to be among the ultra-religious and the right-wing secular nationalists. While Netanyahu might like to bring them both into his government, thus giving him in excess of a majority, the secular nationalists are ideologically opposed to the ultra-religious and will not join a government that includes them. At the same time, some of the opposition might be inclined to join a government with Netanyahu s Likud Party, but at a steep price; namely, that he step down as head of the coalition. Since he is desperate to remain in power to avoid prosecution and humiliation, it is unlikely he will accept. This is precisely why he insisted that his party members pledge loyalty before the election. Pre-election polls demonstrate that the main opposition coalition, Blue and White, will also have difficulty assembling 61 Knesset seats. An additional problem facing Blue and White s chances of forming a government is that even the most optimistic tallies of their Knesset counts include the 10-11 seats that will go to the Joint List of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. The leaders of Blue and White have said that they will not form a government dependent on Joint List members and, for their part, the Joint List leaders have said they will only join a governing coalition that agrees to guarantee equality for the Arab citizens of Israel and agrees to end the occupation of Palestinian lands — demands Blue and White leaders have rejected. As a result, we are back to where we started with an election yielding no outcome other than confusion and rancor. What s also clear is that regardless of who wins — if, in fact, anyone does — there will be no change in the reality faced by Palestinians. There will be no end of the occupation and no two-state solution. Israeli politics has moved so far to the right that it is hard to understand how or why the US media continues to refer to Netanyahu s opposition as a “centre-left” coalition. Whatever the “left” means in this formulation, it most certainly doesn t mean anything related to Palestinians, peace and human rights. Like Netanyahu, Blue and White maintains that the annexation of Jerusalem and the other Palestinian lands around the city will remain. They have claimed that they too support extending Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and settlements in the West Bank. Maybe the one area where they differ from Netanyahu is in their charge that he has coddled Hamas in Gaza. The Blue and White leader has called, instead, for a major military operation to end Islamist rule in the Strip. Blue and White has also rejected Palestinian citizens of Israel demands to cancel the notorious “Jewish Nation State” law, which maintains that Jews have exclusive rights to national self-determination in “the Land of Israel” and denies full rights to Arab citizens of the state. This being the case, the hope to which liberals have clung that in the post-Netanyahu era Israel will be different is, at best, an illusion. The only change one might see in a Blue and White-led Israel is an easing of the hold the Orthodox Rabbinate have over aspects of social and religious life in the country. But as far as ending the occupation and meeting minimum Palestinian requirements for an independent state, neither Netanyahu nor the Blue and White have any interest in moving towards that goal. This is the Israel that Netanyahu and the Likud have built. Since the late 1970s when they first came to power, the Likud embarked on a settlement programme that, in their words, would make a Palestinian state an impossibility. After Oslo, they incited against the agreement, the Labour Party that signed it, and the Palestinians. Their efforts led to anti-peace legislation passed by the Republican-led US Congress, the assassination of prime minister Rabin, and the 1996 election of Netanyahu on a platform of ending the peace process. During all this time, liberal voices were largely silent as Israel built new settlements, roads and infrastructure, seizing Palestinian land and violating their fundamental rights. While, for Palestinians, Oslo was to have led to separation and two states, this was never embraced by liberals until 2001, when Clinton suggested such an outcome in his “parameters for peace”. Even now, when liberal voices are raised in defence of a two-state solution, the reason they give is not the brutality of the occupation and its violation of Palestinian rights. Rather, it is because they say they want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The reality is that Israel never was nor can it ever be both Jewish and democratic. Nor was it intended to be. In the beginning of the state, following the 1948 expulsion of Arabs, creating what Ben Gurion called “the double miracle” a state with “more land and less Arabs”, Israel believed it could continue with an Arab minority that would be exploited, managed and repressed. This state of affairs continued until after 1967 when Israel occupied more land, but with it came a larger number of Arabs. For the first 25 years following the 1967 War, liberals were silent in the face of the brutality of the Israeli occupation. During this time, as Israel dug deep roots into the territories, no effective voices were raised in opposition to prevailing practices. Now it s too late: the hole Israel dug is too deep. With 650,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied lands and a network of Jewish-only roads and infrastructure connecting them and dividing the Palestinian lands into isolated pockets, and with no one willing or able to take the steps to roll back this reality, we have one state. And it is an Apartheid state since the majority of those living between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea are Palestinian Arabs. Given this, the liberal lament over the “potential demise of the two-state solution” isn t a laughable illusion. It s irritating, because it was their silence and inaction that allowed it to happen and even now their concern is misdirected. They remain more concerned with preserving the Jewish character of Israel than with the decades of suffering of the Palestinians. Not only was their inaction responsible for Israeli practices, their silence created Israeli impunity. Both Netanyahu and Blue and White know that they can claim sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, continue to strangle Gaza, expand settlements in the West Bank and “Greater Jerusalem” and nothing will happen. It is for these reasons that this new Israeli election will decide nothing — not for Israel, nor for the Palestinians.
Corey Lewandowski s congressional testimony on Tuesday highlighted the fundamental paradox facing the House Judiciary Committee. On one hand, Lewandowski -- despite openly antagonizing House Democrats and preening for his Republican cronies -- testified fairly casually about misconduct by President Donald Trump that, in normal times, would be presidency-defining (and potentially presidency-ending). On the other hand, Lewandowski s testimony changed little about the longer-term prospects of impeachment. Through all the sarcasm, personal insults, and tortured debate about Congressional procedure, Lewandowski confirmed that Trump instructed him to have then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions intervene in, and derail, a criminal investigation of Trump and his close associates. This is a big deal -- or should be. But it also was nothing new. The entire summer 2017 episode is set forth in detail in the Mueller report. Lewandowski s testimony simply confirms that Mueller got it right -- contrary to the repeated claims of Lewandowski s chief benefactor Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Mueller s impartiality and veracity. Lewandowski was a truly horrible witness. His demeanor was the stuff of a trial lawyer s nightmares. He was angry, combative, sarcastic, and more intent on getting off personal insults and pumping up his impending Senate campaign than actually answering questions or getting Congress or the public any closer to truth. When questioned by Republicans, he was an eager beaver, responsive and sharp. When questioned by Democrats, he turned hostile and suddenly seemed unable to hear, read, understand, or respond to even the simplest question.
Everyone s unfair to Donald Trump. Just ask him. Despite being president of the United states, a self-declared billionaire many times over, a champion of grabbing media attention and master of the Republican Party, Trump is a victim in his own eyes. The meanies who are after him now are the Democrats in Congress and you can bet he s going to whine about it from now until Election Day in 2020. As House Democrats debate the ramifications of impeaching Trump -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems especially hesitant -- they seem to be overlooking the obvious: Trump is going to play the victim no matter what they do. With this in mind, they would be better off proceeding to impeachment. At least then they can deny him the chance to claim that, in backing off, House Democrats proved they were never serious in the first place. He s so good at this "heads I win, tails you lose" game that anyone who opposes him must refuse to play along by sticking to the task at hand and ignoring the politics. For the House, this means taking a serious approach to Trump s obstruction of justice, including his many refusals to respond to congressional requests for information. Based on evidence already made public by former special counsel Robert Mueller, and on the administration s sweeping refusal to respond to House subpoenas, the impeachment of Trump for what the Constitution refers to as "high crimes and misdemeanors" seems an inevitability. One of the most egregious examples of an impeachable offense arose when Trump asked his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of Mueller s investigation. It s hard to imagine a more direct attempt to obstruct justice than this request. With Lewandowski set to testify before the House committee this week, the President offered a preemptive Twitter strike that reveals his own anxiety. "They failed on the Mueller Report, they failed on Robert Mueller s testimony, they failed on everything else, so now the Democrats are trying to build a case that I enrich myself by being President. Good idea, except I will, and have always expected to, lose BILLIONS of DOLLARS." Consistent with the Trump s oft-used "no obstruction" and "witch hunt" claims, the idea that he will lose "BILLIONS OF DOLLARS" as he serves in the White House is offered without a scintilla of fact. Indeed, in order to prove he is losing money Trump would have to release verified financial information, like, say, his tax returns, and everyone knows he will not do so. The facts will continue to work against Trump when it comes to Mueller, who found ample evidence of Trump s wrongdoing. And as the House Judiciary Committee begins its impeachment investigation, it is almost certain to corroborate the former special counsel s findings. When it comes to the law and political dynamics, Trump s protests should be read as a signal that Congress must proceed. As the President has freely admitted, whining is among his favorite methods for responding to difficult situations. In 2015 he told CNN, "I am a whiner, and I keep whining and whining until I win." Another way to look at it is that Trump thinks everyone who opposes him is unfair and that when he seems in danger of losing any contest it s because the rules are rigged. Everyone knows that Trump complained about the unfairness of presidential politics, saying "the system is rigged," until he won in 2016. But do you know that he also believed that the annual Primetime Emmy Awards was "rigged" because his show, "The Apprentice," never won? In 2013 he tweeted, "I should have many Emmys for the Apprentice, if the process were fair." In 2014 he added the Academy Awards to his beefing with the tweet that asked, "Which is worse and which is more dishonest -- the Oscars or the Emmys?" (You might recall that 2014 was the year when Trump also bullied actress Kim Novak with remarks about her appearance.) As the gravest action imaginable when it comes to national politics, the impeachment of a president is far more serious than any showbiz award. But as Trump s behavior suggests, he will counter it with the same technique, challenging the integrity of anyone who goes against him. Among House Democrats, a go-slow faction noted that articles of impeachment would likely be defeated in a GOP-controlled Senate and wants to wait for a groundswell of public support before acting. This concern puts politics first, and places Democrats in the position of playing Trump s game. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler seems to have opted for another choice. Monday, while talking to WNYC, he stressed the principles -- and not the politics -- at stake, saying: "We have to show that this kind of behavior -- trashing the Constitution, trashing all the norms which guarantee democratic government, aggrandizing power to the presidency and destroying the separation of powers and thereby leading the President to become more and more of a tyrant -- cannot be tolerated. ... That s why the impeachment is necessary, even if we cannot get a vote in the Senate." Indeed, the better way for Democrats to respond to Trump s challenge to their integrity is to act with integrity and then let the American people judge the outcome for themselves.
If I had met philosopher Peter Sloterdijyk, my first advice would have been to change his name. One of the most brilliant minds in contemporary German philosophy,Sloterdijyk succeeded in being a philosophical star after introducing philosophy on a famous TV programme. He has beenpresenting his programme“The Philosophy Quartet” on the German ZDF channel since 2002. The programme became famous in the media under the name of the “New Athens Arena”, in which he speaks about his philosophy and invites other philosophers to share their thoughts. Sloterdijyktook philosophy from the library to the TV, and along with it several issues from the elite circles to the public opinion circles. He wrote about almost everything and his books were successful. His PhDthesis from Hamburg University,titled “Critique of Cynical Reason” and published in 1983, was the best-selling work on philosophy in the German language since WWII. His book “Nietzsche the Apostle” or “Nietzsche s Fifth Gospel,” published in 2000,was widely read across Europe. Sloterdijyk followed in Nietzsche s footsteps, believing in Man and not believing in God, then he moved further to believing in neither God nor Man. He published an impertinent study titled “After God”and gave a lecture on Man s end.In both instances he was a nihilist; neither believing in the Creator nor the creature. In his 1999 lecture, attended by an elite group of thinkers in Bavaria, Sloterdijyk spoke about the failure of Mankind s project and the failure of the human existence on Earth. As a result, he called for thenecessity of terminating the life of contemporary Man and making room for the genetically modified human being. According to him, since all forms of education and culture confirm the impossibility of civilisation in the light of the current humans formula, there is no solution except to alter the genetic makeup of humans and allownew humans to come to being. Sloterdijyk said, “Human tendency to adjust the animal facet of humans has failed and there is no way but to reform Mankind and empower Technological Anthropology to clearly plan human characteristics…" "The failure of the human thought is undoubted and there is no solution save the biological technology, finding a race of thinkers who are able to make humans better is a must… Genetic treatment will achieve what cultural education was unable to do with the bestial humans. There is a dire necessity to devise Man biologically and improve his offspring while he is in his mother s womb… No more humans should be born as before… Sorting should be made before giving birth.” Sloterdijyk belongs to the Frankfurt School of thought, which was one of the most famous philosophical schools in the world. It was the bastion of the Critical Theory and is considered leftist. Its name is derived from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt in Germany. It had a constellation of philosophers at the topmost were Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse, while its number one star in the last decades has been Jürgen Habermas. Habermas is Germany s first and foremost philosopher. According to former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, Habermas is the philosopher of the New German Republic. However, the clamour that Sloterdijyk causes every now and then is parallel to that of Habermas,although both belong to the Frankfurt School. Habermas criticisedSloterdijyk, and others said he had become an insolent enemy of the Renaissance. Der Spiegel said: “His language has fascist overtones and elevates the Superman concept according to the well-known Nietzschean call.” Philosopher Dieter Bernhuberexploited Sloterdijyk s mistakes,saying, “Through these views he is ending the Critical Theory s domination over Germany…He represents the crisis of the Left s remnants among Germans. He has shot abullet of mercy on the Frankfurt School s traditions. It s fantastic that the philosophical hegemony of thinkers such as Adorno and Habermashas fallen.” Sloterdijyk s leftist leaning is in doubt for quickly he became a rightist then he became a staunch neo-liberal. He attacked the taxation system and he didn t see it as a right to the marginalisedbut rather an exploitation of the unproductive citizens who increasingly live at the expense of productive ones. He viewed the income tax in the capitalist system as equal to expropriation in the socialist system. Thus, in his opinion, the capitalist system isn t capitalist but a semi-socialist system. Sloterdijyk called for the abolition of taxes and leaving matters to the rich to pay whatever they like in the form of charitable donations. The philosopher s thoughts went further to the extent of annulment of the concept of the people. He says: “There is no thing as the people, people is just a myth. Throughout my life, I ve met men and women and saw young men and old men, but I haven tseen people throughout my life. Current Populism is nothing but continuation of such a myth; the people”. Naturally, Sloterdijyk refused the concepts of democracy and elections. He saw it was impossible to trust the principle of the intelligent majority since the majority of the people don t participate in any elections. He ventured too farwhile holding the view that choosing through a lottery was better than choosing through elections. That s what the old Greek cities used to do. It is by lot not by ballot. I deem it fitting to display parts of this philosopher s intellectualbiography for it would, to a great extent, shed light on the crisis ofthe contemporary Western intellect. The politically and intellectually swinging Sloterdijykended as a nihilist seeing no meaning in life and no point in the human existence. He denied the existence of God then denied the existence of people. He disdainedthe worldly life. Instead of embracing the abolishment of exploitation and colonialism as an intellectual project, his project became the elimination of Man. Instead of contributing to putting an end to sadness and poverty and wiping the tears of the wretched souls, the philosopher sees that the solution is exterminating the poor not poverty, the death of the wretched not wretchedness, and the ending of life not endingthe suffering. It is unfortunate some great intellects have little room in their hearts. It is sad when their pens can reach the skies but their souls are way below.
Egypt has successfully re-established macroeconomic stability, attained impressive growth figures, attracted new investments and lowered formal unemployment rates. As often is the case, such successes place other developments in a starker light. For instance, recent reports suggest that close to one-third of the population lives below the national poverty line and that one out of three children may not go to school full-time, may not have good and nutritious food or adequate healthcare. Also, growing formal employment figures mask low labour force participation rates of women for example, as well as un- and under-employment in the informal sector and agriculture; and finally, not all recently secured investments contribute in equal measure to employment creation, sustainability and the social common good. These are indeed growing challenges that can be resolved, now that macro-economic stability has been achieved. Egypt, by right, can look at the future with both determination and confidence. I have heard some arguments that Egypt has been in this spot before and that it has not always been capable of undertaking some of the deep reforms required for success. Many will point at the adverse impacts of the global recession of the early 1990s and, more recently, the global financial crisis of 2008. At a time when the global media is speculating about another global slowdown, the first signs of which are declines in investment in emerging economies like Egypt, this feels decidedly uncomfortable; dark clouds are gathering. Over the past year, the United Nations system has been collaborating with the Ministry of Planning and Administrative Reform to provide integrated policy support to the multidimensional challenge of achieving Sustainable Development, as articulated in the Egypt Vision 2030. With the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we explored how the government could organise for success, with greater emphasis on formalised coordination and making sure that well-articulated national plans find their expression in the national budget and medium-term public investment thinking. Led by the United Nations Children s Fund (UNICEF), we reviewed how the citizens of Egypt move in and out of poverty and have jointly understood that ill-health (sickness in the family) is the quickest way to the bottom of the economic pyramid. We have also confirmed that good social protection measures and good education are the quickest ways out. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) conducted an exercise about localisation of global sustainable development targets, based on the premises that socio-economic challenges of modern economies like Port Said are different from rural agriculture based economies such as Qena. Closely related to this is the work that the UNDP and the World Bank undertook on macroeconomic modelling. That engagement concluded that efficient and effective institutions (good governance) have a direct and significant impact on economic growth. Moreover, models show how Egypt s response to demographic challenges and population growth will become a major determinant of future success. It is important to catch the undertone of this collaboration; Egypt can build on its recent successes and become a global example of how sustainable development can bring a nation to unprecedented levels of prosperity and well-being for all its citizens – inclusive of the marginalised, youth, women and children. No country in the world can simply take a pill to become immune to global economic dynamics. Countries can, however, focus strongly on the capacity of their citizens to withstand shocks. The UN system in Egypt is continuing its engagement with the government to accelerate success. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are working together with the Ministry of Social Solidarity on the social protection floor connecting social safety nets, while new laws on pensions and the new health insurance scheme are driving change. UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women have been providing strategic support to the immediate expansion of the family planning system. The UNDP, UN Women, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and others are taking major steps to support the National Council of Women s goals for women s economic empowerment through financial inclusion. Nevertheless, internally we are beginning to question if we have a sufficient focus on poverty reduction. We would welcome greater debate on vulnerability and resilience. Especially for those at the bottom of the economic and social pyramid, life is not easy and all partners need to move quickly before a new form of multidimensional poverty becomes deeply entrenched. Mr. Richard Dictus is the UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt. He has been seeking to foster key strategic debates in Egypt on how Sustainable Development can be achieved, building on Egypt s track record of change and adjustment to often adverse external circumstances.
North Africa has been witnessing a phase of political tension, particularly in Tunisia and Algeria — two of the most significant powers politically in the continent. However, there are major differences between the tensions in Algeria and Tunisia, specifically on an institutional level. It is important to notice that state structure is one of the variables that lead the development of contentious politics within the countries of North Africa. Algeria is witnessing a power vacuum and is still considering the possibilities of an institutional political process. The idea of presidential elections held before the end of the year is not very much welcomed by the various political forces in Algeria. The scene at the current moment lacks political cohesion. Hence, it is expected that the state of uncertainty and struggle between Algeria s political actors will remain for the time being. The core issue in Algeria s situation is the civil-military relationship. Algeria, meanwhile, is torn between a mobilised street powered by various political currents, and a council with a military presence that is trying to maintain state stability. Setting a timeline for a political settlement is futile. Tunisia is quite a different case. In Algeria, political pressure was put on former president Bouteflika to leave office and not run for a fifth term. Events surprised the Algerian street, despite consistent levels of mobilisation on nationalist grounds. Tunisia, on the other hand, was a different case, since political tension was the result of a presidential vacuum after the death of president Essebsi. The absence in the presidential position in Tunisia moved several political forces to revive their role within the public sphere. Some 26 nominees stepped forward for the presidential elections in Tunisia. Between independents and representatives of standing political powers, the Tunisian executive election field seems quite competitive. Presidential absences in both Algeria and Tunisia were sudden. However, there is a major difference between the two concerning the relation between civil society and political powers and the state. The Tunisian street or public sphere is much more powerful than that in Algeria, specifically from an institutional perspective. Algeria has proved that its political forces have significant ability to mobilise. Tunisia, on the other hand, had a different advantage. How institutional and active were social and political forces in Tunisia was a determining factor in the trajectory Tunisia followed after the death of Essebsi. At this particular point, we have to mention a difference in state structure between Algeria and Tunisia. The state in Tunisia, mainly since 2011, has allowed a high ceiling for opposition forces and for civil society. Meanwhile, the diversity of political powers has created new legislative frameworks that were reflected in cultural changes and transformations. Algeria, on the other hand, experienced political stagnation for several years under the concurrently renewed presidential terms of Bouteflika. This meant that political forces in Algeria do not enjoy the same ceiling that political forces in Tunisia do. Moreover, political and social forces in Algeria are not as institutional as their counterparts in Tunisia due to the relationship they have with the state. Finally, newly materialising political forces in Algeria did not enjoy the same political environment that the state allows in Tunisia. However, there is a similarity concerning the resurgence of the Islamist stream in both countries. In Tunisia, Abdelfattah Moro is a candidate for presidential elections representing Al-Nahda movement, the arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia. Other political parties have come forward with nominees for the presidency, including Monsef Al-Marzouki, Ebeid El-Breiki, Mohamed Abo and Abeer Moussi. This means that Tunisia has a strong platform of political parties capable of nominating representatives. Meanwhile, the situation in Algeria is not the same when it comes to political diversity. In comparison to Tunisia, Algeria is in a much earlier phase. The political environment that prevailed in Algeria was very different to the one that was dominant in Tunisia. Today, Algeria is witnessing weak powers on the political level — powers that are capable of public mobilisation, but are not capable of institutional organisation. Therefore, there is a big difference between the idea of holding elections in the near future in Tunisia and Algeria. Elections in Tunisia might be a way to a political settlement, despite the Islamist stream. However, in Algeria it is too soon to claim that an institutional political process could be orchestrated. In the end, Egypt s role in North Africa has become more integral. With current tension in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Sudan, and with Egypt leading the African Union, the responsibilities and roles have been multiplied. Egypt s role within the continent is not only a domestic one; its regional influence is turning into a portal for any foreign actor that wants to be involved in Africa.
There are a few truisms about special elections: Both sides spend a lot of money, special elections are difficult for the party that holds the presidency as they are often a referendum on the job the president is doing, and finally, both parties will be aggressive with spin to explain a loss as not a loss and a victory as a major national trend event. During North Carolina s special elections these truths were on full display. More than $20 million was spent on the congressional race, and President Donald Trump, understanding the second truth, made it clear that the election was about whether people supported him or the "America-hating left." As for spin on a victory, Trump used Twitter to get the ball rolling on that. "BIG NIGHT FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!," read one of several tweets
The early signs of a new academic year are everywhere. It is September, and the few international schools that open their doors during the last week of August are already sending their school buses roaring around the streets of Egypt s major cities. Hundreds of students along with their parents are cramming the country s stationary shops to buy their supply requirements. But with the early signs of a new academic year come late signs telling us that our educational status in the Arab world is far from perfect. Huge numbers of young children in Egypt are working as street cleaners, Tok-Tok drivers, or in shops and homes. The vast majority of them have dropped out of school or have never been enrolled in the first place. Others have been facing the dilemma of schools that have been wrecked in conflict-stricken areas or have been displaced to areas with no schools. The millions of children who are blessed with the fact that they still go to school often receive an extremely low quality of education that will only guarantee unemployment in the future. The UN children s agency UNICEF tells us that while millions of children and young people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are starting their new school year, an estimated 9.3 million children between the ages of 15 and 17 are still out of school. And guess what? Girls account for just over half of all out-of-school 15 to 17-year-olds in the MENA region. This means that more than one third of adolescents in this age group are out of school, which in turn means that in a few years time more than one third of the Arab countries youth population will be illiterate. They will not know how to read and write. And more than half of this illiterate youth population will be girls getting ready to get married and give birth to children as illiterate mothers. UNICEF says that the cost of conflict in this part of the world has been enormous. An estimated three million out-of-school children would have been enrolled in education had the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen not occurred, it says. At least 2,160 education facilities have been attacked in the region since 2014. According to a situation analysis of Syria from last July, a total of 2.1 million children in the country are estimated to be out of school, with a further 1.3 million at risk of dropping out. Displaced communities remain significantly underserved, with most internally displaced people (IDP) camps having insufficient or non-existent education services. More than one in three schools in Syria have been damaged or destroyed, while others are used for purposes not related to education such as shelter for displaced people. In the northwest of the country, the continuation of hostilities has resulted in the destruction of an additional 45 schools and in 400,000 children not being able to attend their final exams. An even worse account from the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Yemen points to education becoming a luxury for most Yemeni children, with children regularly seen walking to school barefoot, carrying their notebooks and pencils in plastic bags rather than in school bags. Some two million children in the country are estimated to be out of school, almost three times the number of out-of-school children at the beginning of the war. In areas of active conflict, it is estimated that only one in three children attends school due to safety concerns, displacement, the unavailability of teachers and destroyed or damaged schools. In addition to the deteriorating situation caused by the conflict in Yemen, the dire economic situation is keeping parents from sending their children to schools in areas where there are operating schools. The report goes on to conclude that in a country where 81 per cent of the population lives under the poverty line, and ten million people are one step away from starvation and famine, it is no wonder families are not able to prioritise school for their children. Importance Of Education Yet, education cannot wait, and providing un-interrupted, quality education to children, including displaced children, is a way to ensure a sustainable end to their displacement once the active conflict ends and the basis for a more stable future. Education helps to protect children from war-time abuses, such as recruitment into the armed forces, and it helps families to break the cycle of poverty and supports the country as a whole once the recovery and reconstruction starts. In Iraq, the crisis is multi-faceted with threads of the Islamic State (IS) group, child labour, psychological drama, poverty and war intertwined. ReliefWeb, a digital service for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says that as schools continue to re-open in areas of Iraq formerly occupied by IS where children bore the brunt of the conflict and had to quit school for different reasons, many of these children, especially those drafted into armed groups, are in desperate need of psychosocial support to help them to reintegrate into their education after this was so violently punctuated by factors beyond their control. Other children in Iraq had to drop out of school following the death of a relative in order to support their families by seeking work. The numbers of young children that were forced to join military forces, whether with IS or with the different groups fighting IS, are also alarming, but not as alarming as the traumatic psychological effects they now suffer. The situation of education in the conflict-stricken areas of the Arab world is horrific. However, the situation in other Arab countries that have not been directly or strongly affected by the winds of change from the 2011 Revolutions is also far from brilliant. UNICEF states that inequities in access to education persist across the region, with the poorest and conflict-affected children consistently left behind. Children from the poorest families are seven times more likely to be out of school than children from the richest families, it says, while children in rural areas are three times more likely to be out of school than their urban peers. At the lower secondary school level, girls are twice as likely to be out of school as boys. As children move into adolescence, they are far more likely to drop out of school than at an earlier age. To help their families make ends meet, many engage in labour, and young girls are forced into marriage. The quality of education around the region remains poor. Only half of all students meet the lowest international benchmarks for foundational skills such as reading, mathematics and science. A traditional curriculum, teacher-centred approaches and a know-by-heart style of education and exams are still the core of the educational system and the main reasons behind the crises of education in the Arab world. There is also a huge gap between the skills acquired in school and the requirements of the job market, despite years of attempts at bridging the gap. As a result, Arab youth unemployment continues to be among the highest in the world. There are still ultra-conservative teachers in some classrooms who exert efforts to ensure that the vicious circle of religious extremism remains alive and kicking in the Arab world. UNICEF Regional Director for the MENA region Geert Cappelaere also points to extremely low Arab spending on education that leads to blocking youngsters access to school and the stalemate of low-quality education that helps preserve the status quo. It has come out with a list of requirements that might help ease the current educational crisis in the Arab world. These range from increases in investments in education to somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent of total public expenditure, to making sure that schools are inclusive of all children, to providing learning opportunities beyond schooling, especially with the new technologies offering a wide range of good learning alternatives. There are no alternatives to a good education. The past eight years have been catastrophic for many Arab countries educational systems and performances. Even the countries that have not gone through the processes of change, chaos or conflict have been affected one way or another by the aftermath of the 2011 Revolutions, whether by receiving thousands of refugees, or having to engage in neighbouring conflicts, or even being on their guard against the spreading chaos. It was only a few years ago that the world was wondering if the winds of change and the promises of democracy and prosperity in the Arab world would lead to a corrective revolution in its educational systems. Maybe we should try things the other way round, since the winds of change have not given way to positive results. Why don t we pave the way to a revolution within our education systems? Let s get rid of the know-by-heart and don t ask questions system and adopt a critical thinking approach instead. Why don t we decide to provide a civil and liberal education for all, abolishing all the sorts of religious and fanatical education that is currently pulling the whole system downwards? Why don t we allocate billions of pounds and invest them in creating a new generation of well-educated, cultured, informed and well-paid teachers rather than recycling conservatism, fanaticism and rigidity? If we must have a revolution, let it be an educational one. Let s have a revolution in education before we have any other revolutions.
A visit to the National Training Academy (NTA) is a journey to the future, where modern administrative and leadership concepts are being formed. Since its inception in 2015, the NTA has been working to empower the country s system with updated methods in policy-making and management, modernising in the process the traditional concepts of public administration. Egypt has had a public administrative system since its establishment. Despite its long history and skills acquired, it has also aged, becoming an obstacle to coping with the latest developments. This old and overgrown system has been resisting change. It has become a challenge and a stumbling block for creative thinking to modernise the country. The NTA s mission is focused on "thinking, learning and creating." It starts with thinking about our challenges, learning about the different perspectives of the issues at hand, and providing efficient cadres capable of offering creative solutions. This is the shortest way to modernise the system. The comprehensive studies launched by the academy on issues such as climate change, the environment, the economy and the current trade wars are creating the new leaders in the administrative system. Managers and executives are not only trained on how to administer their duties. Their training includes watching plays, listening to music, reading literary works, and practising sports. This image of a manager is totally different from the stereotyped features of our administrators who are grim and narrow-minded, and insist on applying the rules through crippling the system. And, lest we forget, there are also the hundreds of stamps and signatures that are required to decorate an application. The NTA director, Rasha Ragheb, presented a thorough understanding of the academy s mission. She knows the academy is a catalyst for human development and that human capital is a nation s most valuable asset. The academy is thus seen as a means to prepare individuals who can fully integrate into the region while maintaining their Egyptian identity. The challenges of renovating the administrative system and the heavy burden of moving towards a new phase where Egyptians are empowered by the modern tools to cope with the future have come to the forefront of the academy s agenda. The academy has a distinguished team of experts whose main achievements have been spreading positive energy and designing well-planned programmes for the different types and age groups of the administrative corp. However, it is the youngsters who want more than to learn the technology and have the desire to venture into new worlds of creativity that has been the academy s real mission. They will bridge the gap between the old and the new, and the academic vision as introduced by the NTA will help them access through the doors of modernity. Many of the academy s graduates are now assisting ministers and governors and occupying leading posts. Those still being trained are fully aware of the global challenges and sciences. The academy s programs cope with the international standards that facilitate the learning process and promote the desire to learn more. The academy came to being as one of the recommendations adopted at the youth forums annually attended by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. The positive interaction between the president and the young people was behind the establishment of the academy. Trainees from all over the country are now part of an ongoing process to reach out to the people from Upper Egypt to Siwa and from the Mediterranean to the Red sea. This is a new spirit that will be injecting fresh blood into the system and will make our dreams come true.
His three most important films came while he lived in America: “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) and “Funny Girl” (1968). He won three Golden Globe awards, and a César Award. Sharif had extraordinary charisma and was fluent in five languages, yet despite it all he never won an Oscar. Then along comes the young Rami Malek decades later, becoming the talk of Hollywood after winning an Oscar at just 38 years old. The son of parents from Upper Egypt who immigrated to America, Malek s father worked as a tour guide, and he has a twin brother named Sami and a sister. Acting since 2004, in that time Rami has received 14 awards, including an Emmy Award in 2006. He also received the Golden Globe, and now finally has the Oscar placing him among world-class stars, becoming one of the most important modern actors in Hollywood. Rami earned the Oscar for his role as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), which he dedicated to his parents and girlfriend. I ve been invited to the Taormina Film Festival, Italy. It is the second important cinema festival next to the Venice Film Festival. A festival official told me that Rami Malek had been invited to the festival and was excited to attend, but apologized for not being able to come as he was working on the upcoming James Bond film as the villain. After that he found that the role could be considered offensive towards Egypt and apologized for it. I believe he considered turning it down as well. I knew that he only speaks a few words of Arabic, unlike the Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, who skyrocketed in the Hollywood world for his titular role in “Aladdin” (2019), alongside Will Smith. Massoud was born in 1991 in Cairo and therefore speaks fluent Arabic. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada. He played his role in Aladdin brilliantly, and made everyone fall in love with his songs and performance, but this role alone can t give him a Hollywood award, although I think there he is a new star born in Hollywood. My last story is about Dina Anas Habib, known in the political world as Dina Powell. She played a new important role in the Bush administration. After that, she moved to Goldman Sachs, one of the most important financial companies in America. Dina is the third most important person in the company. I came to know Dina when she was about five years old, when I traveled to Dallas at the time of King Ramses II s exhibition, where I met her father Anas Habib. He became one of my most important friends. Dina returned to work with Donald Trump as she is a Republican and a friend of Trump s daughter, yet she suddenly resigned and even refused the post of US ambassador to the United Nations. Dina is fond of a novel written in Arabic and English by the late Jewish-Egyptian Lucette Lagnado. “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World.” The book tells the story of Lagnado s Jewish family, and how they left Egypt after the fall of King Farouk and the revolution. Dina wants to produce this story in English and Arabic, and she wants Rami Malek plays role in it. She gave the story in Arabic to my creative friend the screenwriter Wahid Hamid to write it, though he apologized and turned it down. I asked him about the reason, and he said that while story is great, if he wrote the script the Egyptian people would sympathize too much with the Jewish family. I think the reason behind Omar Sharif not getting the Oscars was the presence of giant, immensely talented actors at his time. Now there are fewer actors up to the Oscars, though Rami Malek was exceptional in portraying singer Freddie Mercury. Omar Sharif, Rami Malek and Mena Massoud have raised Egypt s reputation throughout the world.
Where does the contemporary world begin and where does the modern world end? Historians ask themselves such questions before setting out on research, and generally they hesitate before answering. Often, they wonder whether it is possible to study an event before a quarter of a century has lapsed and many believe that a half-century will produce more documents and records to rely on. But journalists, commentators and similar writers do not have the luxury to wait. Their job is to record what is happening now in their capacity as front seat spectators of history as it unfolds and is recorded and transmitted on the spot by diverse audio and visual equipment and media and, above all, the new phenomenon of social media that disseminates the “now” with its “in-your-face” impact and all its pathos. This attempt to read the contemporary world begins around 2011, not just because that was the year that shook down the leaves of the “Arab Autumn” due to the quake that rumbled through many Arab countries, but also because it was the year that brought the tidings of the birth of a new historical phase in the world. This new beginning had its origins in 1989 when the Cold War ended and the period that would become known as “globalisation” emerged in tandem with the predominance of the Western liberal and democratic order and a single polar order led by the US. This period might be the shortest historical era ever. When historians get to it, they ll probably argue over whether it can be called an era at all, because no sooner had the third millennium begun than the most bizarre incident one could ever have imagined occurred: two passenger planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York triggering a series of American reactions from the invasion of Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Today, we know the outcomes of those wars and how Washington has been wrestling with the dilemmas of engineering exits while leaving things far worse off than before. But we were still feeling our way towards 2011. The next main stop before that was in 2008 which brought two more events of major historical value: the worst global economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 and the election of the first African-American president in US history, Barack Obama. The first event declared that “globalisation” was not a global asset that came without a price and an antithesis, as it also brought the birth of globalised terrorism and globalised economic crises. The second announced the last wave of liberalism which drove the US to elect Obama as a gesture that America was changing itself and shedding the diseases of racism and slavery. The waves clashed, as high waves do, at the time when Obama was seeking a second term. Although he won, he failed to pass a single piece of legislation in his second term without presidential decree, thereby making it easy for his antithesis, Donald Trump, to do away with them with other presidential decrees. That was the year when Trump began his presidential campaign in earnest. It was also the year in which the first seeds of Brexit were sown along with the seeds of the resurgence of “white supremacy” in Europe, the US, the West and elsewhere. By the midpoint of the decade, extremist rightwing groups had made a comeback and by the end of this decade authoritarian governments were in power from Brazil in the West to India in the East. The world has experienced its 13th consecutive year of democratic decline, according to Freedom House s report on “Democracy in Retreat.” Democracies have collapsed across the world, from Burundi to Hungary and from Thailand to Venezuela. More disturbingly yet, democratic institutions have proven surprisingly vulnerable in countries where they had previously seemed stable and secure. The events in the Arab world in 2011 and their subsequent repercussions precipitated an outbreak of civil wars and an unprecedented upsurge in terrorism leading to the establishment of the first “caliphate state” in modern history. These developments generated tidal waves of migrants, refugees and displaced persons. But these were not the first or last of such waves in the world. Similar ones originated in Africa and in South America, and before these came Southeast Asian waves dating back to the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma. These demographic movements of a global magnitude benefited considerably from what seemed like a unified world in terms of the flow of capital, technology, new values, as well as employment and labour markets. When the EU evolved from a community for Western European countries to a larger community for the whole of Europe that included countries from Eastern Europe and that, for a majority of these countries, had a single visa and a single currency, the demographic tide quickly benefited from that single market. This placed huge pressures on labour and employment prospects in the EU s founding countries, which were also the more developed ones. Globalisation made the world grow closer together. It also made it more crowded and congestion generated a new and fanatical surge towards the right. This trend has its own political movements which have little enthusiasm for working with institutions and established conventions and prefer, instead, to work through direct contact with people. In short, “populism” has prevailed. Many “strongmen” have emerged in the process: Putin in Russia, Xi in China, Modi in India, Trump in the US, Johnson in the UK, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Duterte in the Philippines, Erdogan in Turkey, Orbán in Hungary, Duda in Poland and Maduro in Venezuela. Simultaneously, the words “democracy” and “liberalism” have become eclipsed by “authoritarianism”, “centralisation”, “dictatorship”, “autocracy” and “populism”. Ironically, all these strongmen came to power through democratic elections. Yet, their visions for their countries and the world are entirely different from what was once the prevailing global view of the world. Theirs is ultranationalist and often ethnocentric. “Identity” has become the most important chapter in the book of nations. Philosophers and journalists from Fukuyama to Fareed Zakaria are racing to produce books on the subject. Evidently, technological progress and the new industrial revolutions, which were supposed to give the individual the power to make an impact and take part in formulating political decisions, had given those strongmen extremely powerful means and capacities to dominate the world in a “contemporary” age which is so different to its predecessor. How long will this “contemporary” age last? Will it have a longer lifespan than its predecessor? It s impossible to predict this with any degree of certainty. The compass and the gauge are in the hands of political leaders and technology. However, we can probably take it as a general rule that historical eras are getting shorter even if humans live longer than ever before. And the longer one lives, the more one sees.
“Let s leave religion aside; trade has nothing to do with religion,” said one Egyptian salesman when I asked him whether our transaction abided by Islamic principles. I had seen a large prayer mark, a zebibah, on his forehead and thought that our deal could be better endorsed by religion, but apparently I was mistaken. If we dig deeper than religious rituals, we will realise that the vast majority of Egyptian Muslims lacks a basic understanding of religion.
Mina M. Azer
At the time security services in Egypt seriously dealt with calls for a revolution and arrested many people and canceled a football match between Zamalek Egyptian team and Senegal, media was under great pressure as well that it couldn’t decide weather to cover the terrorist attack on security ambush in Sinai or to cover the celebrations of what we don’t know. On the other side, the president said to the people